1st Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers,
Killed in Action, 20th November 1917,
John from the Shankill Road area in Belfast, left with the 1st Battalion the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers for Gallipoli on the 18th March 1915, going via Egypt, and landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli, on 25 April 1915.
During the initial landings around Cape Helles on 25 April 1915, the 1st Inniskillings went ashore at X Beach. They then fought almost continuously throughout the nine month campaign. They took part in successive battles at Helles to capture the village of Krithia and the heights of Achi Baba, all of which ended in hard-fought failure. In August, they moved to the Suvla Bay sector and suffered heavily on Scimitar Hill in the last major attack made by the British. They spent the remainder of the campaign at Suvla and back at Helles, engaged in mainly defensive trench warfare.
The Battalion left Gallipoli on 8 January 1916, as part of the general allied withdrawal from the peninsula, and subsequently moved to France along with the rest of the 29th Division. During the campaign, 267 men of the battalion were killed in action, or died from wounds or disease, 79 were posted missing, and some 1001 were wounded or evacuated sick (some of whom returned to duty). Their initial strength had been 990, and they received 1205 replacements. Only 2 officers and 118 other ranks survived the entire campaign unscathed, John being one of these lucky few.
We next pick John up, still fighting with the 1st Innniskillings in November 1917 at Cambrai on the 20th. The battle began at 0620 hours on 20 November 1917. It was an historic battle because the British used tanks en masse for the first time; some 381 tanks achieved surprise and gave great impetus to the infantry assault.
During savage fighting near the village of Marcoing, the 1st Inniskillings suffered many casualties. 45 men were killed with scores wounded, one of the dead being John McFarlane.
Incidentally, The Commanding Officer of the 1st Battalion, John Sherwood Kelly was the awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry leading his men on the this day. His citation reads..
“On 20 November 1917 during the Battle of Cambrai at Marcoing, France, when a party of men were held upon the near side of a canal by heavy rifle fire, Lieutenant Colonel Sherwood Kelly at once ordered covering fire, personally led his leading company across the canal and then reconnoitered, under heavy fire, the high ground held by the enemy. He took a Lewis gun team, forced his way through obstacles and covered the advance of his battalion, enabling them to capture the position. Later he led a charge against some pits from which heavy fire was coming, capturing five machine-guns and 46 prisoners.”
Most probably John fell whilst following his gallant commander.
John’s body was never found, after the fighting and he has no known grave. He is remembered with honour at the Cambrai Memorial to the missing.